“My journey with wellness started back in high school, when I would eat whatever I wanted and I had the craziest acne. One day I realized ‘something isn’t right here, something isn’t working,’ so I took to the internet with primitive sentences like, ‘how to get rid of acne.’ It led me down a wormhole, and I became determined to have healthier skin. From that day on, my diet changed drastically: I became largely plant-based; I kept dairy to a minimum; I started eating more fruits and vegetables. I saw a big, big difference pretty much immediately.
Growing up in a Mexican household, food was very much at the center of our lives so—although the results were good—making that switch wasn’t easy. We had endless amounts of rice and beans, and no one really focused on what not to eat. The focus in our culture is about celebrating each other and celebrating with other, it’s not about being restrictive. But when I explained that my lifestyle didn’t agree with my body, my family were supportive. I think before then, I wasn’t in tune with how I felt physically. This was probably around the time I was a senior.
After I graduated, I moved to New York to attend NYU and I started interning at Nylon in the beauty department with Jade Taylor. I remember sitting next to her and asking what [products] I should be using to help heal my acne scars and pigmentation. She told me that less was more and that I needed to stop touching my face. I still pick [pimples] sometimes, but really your face shouldn’t be touched unless a professional is doing it. I’m getting more on that vein in general now—investing in professional treatments and looking at my health as something worth spending $$$ on.
I like to say that your skin is a reflection of what’s going on inside of your body, but I also like to say that what works for me might not work for you. It can be the same with supplements too. I look at them as an exploratory game of trial and error. Supplements that I know work for me 100% include magnesium. I have no problem talking about bowel movements at the dining room table, and magnesium has really helped keep my bowel movements good. Real-talk: We’re all humans, we all eat food, and we all have to go to the bathroom.
If you’re really seeking to feel the best, looking after yourself doesn’t feel like a chore, but conquering how to exercise has been a hard learning curve for me. A few years ago, the last thing I wanted to do was get a gym membership, but at night in bed I’d feel restless and in the day I felt lethargic and spongey. At first, I exercised on a very basic level. I would do 30 minutes on the elliptical every day, and gradually I started to feel a bit better. Then I added in some mat work and began to enjoy it. I guess I was posting it more on my Instagram too, because Nike got in touch with me. They asked me to be the face of their 5K campaign and I was like, ‘but I can’t run,’ so they offered to train me.
I never though I would run in an organized race, but pretty soon I got a taste of this active lifestyle and became hooked. I started training with Nike three days a week, and in the other days I ran by myself. On the day of the actual race, my new goal was to complete it in 30 minutes. In the end, I ran it in 25. A few weeks later I signed up for a 10K. Right now, I train 2-3 times a week and I typically run 6 miles each time. When I’m menstruating, I take a break because it feels right for my body.
For me, running has become a little slice of peace. It’s very meditative and I feel incredibly accomplished at the end of each mile I finish. I just think ‘wow, who knew I could do this?’ I think it’s really helped me mentally in that aspect, too. Exercise is so cleansing. My advice to others looking to run is to remember that it takes a lot of discipline. It doesn’t just happen, you have to want it. But, once you set a goal and surpass it, you’ll feel addicted. It’s immediate gratification and so satisfying. You’ll also be able to tell everyone about it.
A lot of people know me through social media, but to be honest, I try not to pay too much attention to it. I just let it happen, otherwise it’s too easy to get stuck into all of ‘that-ness’ and it can do more harm than good. I’m proud of my self preservation skills. I think it helps that I’m more interested in learning other things, like how to bake the perfect potato, host a nutritious dinner party, or work on my painting skills. I appreciate the platform [on Instagram], but I don’t feel pressure from my followers. On the contrary, I worry about letting them down.
I’m not at a point to completely love myself yet, but I am very into self-improvement. Right now, I’m aiming to be more gentle, accepting, kinder. I don’t wake up and think I am in my final form, but I’m still young and growing. My outsides are just fine, but I think a lot about how to cultivate love internally. In theory, I have everything—a job, a family, my health—so I make a note to be grateful. I think accepting and loving yourself is a challenge for everyone, but I’m a determined and motivated person, so I’m working on it."
Photographs Leo Chang for The Nue Co.